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Billy Liar

Billy Liar (1963)

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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 1
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 0

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85

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Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 2,613

My Rating

Movie Info

Billy Fisher (Tom Courtenay) is known to his blue-collar British mates as Billy Liar because of his vivid imagination. This film version of the Keith Waterhouse-Willis Hall stage play "visualizes" some of Billy's more outrageous fabrications. He periodically escapes the drudgery of his job at a funeral parlor by conjuring up impossible adventures, usually involving the conquest of women. In one of her first film roles, Julie Christie plays one of two "real" girls who wish that Billy would come

Jan 1, 1998

Continental

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All Critics (16) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (11) | Rotten (0) | DVD (11)

One of the great movies of the 1960's.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's the director's most assured work, and it includes Courtenay's greatest performance. The young actor balances zestiness and frustration, levity and rage, and never soft-pedals his character's more unsympathetic tendencies.

May 31, 2013 Full Review Source: New Statesman
New Statesman

Not many classic films have also enjoyed success as a book, play, sitcom and musical. It's testament to the timelessness of Keith Waterhouse's source novel ...

April 19, 2013 Full Review Source: The List
The List

A key work of the New British Cinema, Billy Liar features the impressive debut of director John Schlesinger and his first teaming with Julie Christie (before Darling).

August 9, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

Even though it's a seminal movie of the sixties, it never reached me emotionally.

April 18, 2009 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

... this portrait of ambition aching to break out of suffocating conformity and social expectation is viewed through the prism of fantasy and puckish humor...

April 4, 2009 Full Review Source: Turner Classic Movies Online
Turner Classic Movies Online

Brill.

February 4, 2004
New Times

a unique work in the British New Cinema movement

August 1, 2001
Q Network Film Desk

Audience Reviews for Billy Liar

The Brits in the 60's did their own take on Thurber's popular Walter Mitty in this updated tale of a dreamer who is happiest in dreams. The climax, wherein our hero is offered the chance to finally live his dream, is the uncomfortable reality that known comfort might be better than unknown, and possibly uncomfortable, freedom. What makes this film interesting is how it summed up quite nicely the youthful unease felt by its generation and the forthcoming social revolution.
November 26, 2012
ApeneckFletcher

Super Reviewer

Billy Liar!" impressed me more than many other admirable British pictures of this era, like "Room at the Top", "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" and "This Sporting Life". It managed to generate a more tangible blend of poignancy and amusement. It's not often humour of the "laugh-out-loud" nature, more of the subtle, grim kind. The reality of Britain at that time is I suspect, very well conveyed here, with the old working-class, represented by Councillor Duxbury (astutely played by the fine Finlay Currie) and Billy's family, very much at odds with what they see as an ungrateful, decadent youth. All the performances hit the intended mark, with Leonard Rossiter typically Rossiter, almost as a younger Rigsby, without so much noticeable seediness. Julie Christie is as good as the role allows, an odd role, very much the "dream girl" of Billy and I dare say a good few others. The film expertly avoids sentimentalizing matters by its cunning, apposite last section. The Danny Boon character is, one suspects, all too typical of the TV light entertainer mould in reality. His reliance on cheap non-gags, smug guffaws and "audience banter" is well conveyed in just a few short scenes. It's interesting that Billy seems to aspire so much to write for him in particular... Helen Fraser's character Barbara is wonderfully quaint; a type long gone it seems. One can understand Billy's frustrations with his respectively prudish and plain (Barbara) and ignorant (Rita) girlfriends, and his anger at his family, although some sympathy is correctly reserved for them. The direction is very good by Schlesinger, emphasizing all the right things. The fine context-setting opening montage expertly draws in the viewer, and never at any stage henceforth is anyone's attention likely to wane. The film is most of all Tom Courtenay's; he gives a truly resonant performance, bringing to vivid life a character far removed from the norms of film making at the time. The fantasy sequences are finely done, and all add more deep impression of this character. His digressive tendencies, self-destructive habits, economy with the truth are well balanced by a sense of yearning and imagination. One cannot help but like and relate to the character, a creation that resoundingly rings true. His ambivalence to the class system comes across concisely, in particular. A fine film indeed, with so many of the smaller touches that many films miss. Witty, sad and a seminal film of the era, very much a crossroads in British history.
February 10, 2011
matertenebraum

Super Reviewer

I wasn't very impressed with this movie or any of the cast really, it wasn't very funny or enjoyable, but once in a while it has a funny moment, so it's an okay movie.
November 26, 2010
ajv2688

Super Reviewer

Billy Fisher's choice at the end left me thinking two things. first, that in order to find happiness one not necessarily has to leave all behind, because after all, that is just a state of mind and a excuse of society to break our individuality in pieces. And second, that Billy, being the irresponsible daydreamer that he is, is above all a coward and a cheeky conformist who wouldn't deprive himself from the pleasure and the importance he has as a refugee of his inner world, without caring much for anything else than fantasizing to escape mediocrity and boredom.
So as my writing may show, I found this picture utterly personal, wildly comic but also lugubrious, sad, like a dead end... or a hard smash on the floor after a light and pleasant flight of the senses.
November 19, 2010
pier007

Super Reviewer

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